Our new BC curriculum has placed greater emphasis on an understanding of First Nations culture and history, and after reflection and discussion with various stakeholders, it is clear that this is an opportunity for us to build on a number of values shared by Catholics and First Nations Peoples. By developing a sense of shared cultural understanding, we can foster reconciliation and healing in our Canadian context, and build a new historical chapter that looks forward in hope and solidarity rather than backward with hostility and misunderstanding.
Indeed there are many shared understandings and spiritual values that can be mutually celebrated, as described by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic journey to Canada in 1984, in a homily given September 15th:
Through his Gospel Christ confirms the native peoples in their belief in God, their awareness of his presence, their ability to discover him in creation, their dependence on him, their desire to worship him, their sense of gratitude for the land, their responsible stewardship of the earth, their reverence for all his great works, their respect for their elders. The world needs to see these values – and so many more that they possess – pursued in the life of the community and made incarnate in a whole people.
These shared values are a great foundation on which to build. While we must neither ignore nor obsess over the complex relationship between Canada’s aboriginal peoples and the European explorers and immigrants, focusing on some of these shared values can help us to explore the historical realities with mutual respect and empathy.
Following are some constructive resources that explore these shared values and historical realities in Canada:
- The ministry of education has recently created a document exploring Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives for the Classroom, which includes a list of First Peoples Principles of Learning––a great starting point for drawing connections to Catholic principles and facilitating a discussion of shared values.
- www.strongnations.com offers a great variety of First Nations resources focusing on cultural awareness and education through stories. Their booklist is grouped into resources for adults, teens and children. One book in particular, From Time Immemorial, offers an account of the history of the coastal First Nations from pre-contact to the present.
- Apple Press also offers several selections exploring First Nations and Inuit culture (the same company who distributes the Canada Map Books).
- Goodminds.com is another good source for reading material, with a database of books searchable by title, author, topic, and grade/reading level.
- CBC also offers a list of ten illustrated storybooks for children exploring First Nations history and culture.
- The Canoe Kids series offers a magazine subscription to stories of various indigenous groups, including Haida of Haida Gwaii and Ojibwe, among others.
- In an interview with Scarboro Missions, Reverend Leverne Jacobs, an Anglican priest and an Ojibway, offers some beautiful and highly personal insights on aboriginal spirituality and its relationship to Christianity.
- www.runningwolf.com also offers a thoughtful comparison of the two spiritual traditions, including some prayers.
- Canadian Saints, featuring stories of fourteen Canadian saints, presents another beautiful approach to learning about this aspect of Canadian history: through the lives of the saints. Through them we can come to understand the issues and struggles of our nation with compassion and understanding. Published by Justin Press.
- Visual Journey: Northwest Coast First Nations and Native Art Colouring Journal features 14 journal entries and art designs to explore First Nations history, culture and art.
- Indigenous and Northern Affairs has also created a site for learning about Canadian Aboriginal learning circles that integrates a variety of subjects into activities.
- Throughout BC there are also a number of Aboriginal Friendship Centres whose mission is to facilitate education and understanding, and who can share insights on how we can all grow together.